Four Qualities Women Leaders Possess and Why South Africa Needs Them
Historically, many women enter the corporate space believing they need to be aggressive and dominating, qualities believed to be in male leaders, to get ahead.
However, a woman stands a better chance at climbing the corporate ladder successfully if she does not act like a man, but in fact embraces her feminine side.
Despite the natural leadership potential of women, a 2012 Harvard Business Review article reported that while women make up half of the work force, once at the CEO level only three percent to four percent worldwide are women.
Closer to home, only 20 percent of companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) are led by women.
Men have always emerged as – or been encouraged to be - leaders, but perhaps a better balance needs to be achieved between feminine and masculine in the ‘C’ suite.
Is this just a matter of gender affirmative action, or are there real benefits for why women should be encouraged to climb the leadership ladder?
Suzanne Styles, co-founder of Mind Power Safari, an exclusive executive safari offering professional development seminars, said: “We need more women to be prepared to come into the boardroom as women, not pseudo men, not aggressive and without the ego.
Styles and her husband Chris are professional speakers, trainers, facilitators, business owners, award-winning and best-selling authors, and talk radio hosts, who have interviewed and worked with many of the world's top mind and money experts.
Chris said: “Whether starting out in the corporate ladder or already at the very top, or in business at all, everyone has the obligation to be a leader because first and foremost you must lead yourself.
“No one else can do that for you. You must be your own best example. Someone somewhere is looking up to you, you are a role model whether you realise it or not.”
Chris and Suzanne list four qualities inherent in women that, when applied in a corporate setting, can grow a business, better its employees, and positively challenge the entire industry. They are:
1 Women nurture
Women are intrinsically able, and encouraged, to feel and show love, nurturing, and caring. This goes beyond emotion, but also allows women to nurture competencies in others; recognising an employee’s core strengths meaning they get the right person in the job and keeping them there. This is not only a good work ethic but also makes sound business sense.
The greatest trait in leadership is being able to serve, and this requires love. Chris is quick to point out that this is not ‘mushy’ love, but a constructive and creative force that allows women to view their employees as part of the ‘family’. This is returned through increased company loyalty and unity, which can lead to a growth in productivity.
2 Women create
If a company is to succeed long term, it must create not compete. Masculine energy is competitive; crushing the opposition. The idea of domination, of obliterating the competition limits the company and over time, contracts the industry.
On the other hand, a feminine energy is about growth and creation, whether in the form of a family, an individual, or cultivating a company.
“Women think more in terms of abundance, creation, encouraging growth, and this translates directly to jobs creation and expansion; potentially impacting not only the company but also the industry,” says Suzanne.
3 Women have inner strength
“All women possess an inner strength, even if they feel shy or nervous. Imagine how even the most timid mother can become ferocious if her family is threatened. That does not come from aggression - that is the root of power,” says Suzanne.
4 Women find the win-win situation
Generally speaking, when men face conflict situations they want a winner, but having a winner means there is a loser. A winner takes all scenario is not successful in business because the perceived ‘loser’ in the situation walks away often unwilling to work with the party again, continually feeling a residual anger.
Women, who tend to use reason and negotiation in the same circumstances, look for the best all-round solution. In a win-win situation all parties walk away feeling they got the best deal.
Currently in South Africa, business remains a traditionally male-dominated territory and there are still many significant obstacles that female entrepreneurs and business owners face in order to become successful.
To be powerful does not mean to demand respect and be aggressive. A woman can be highly influential and powerful and still be kind and loving. Be fair, but firm. Be credible, but direct. Be confident, but grounded. Assertively, with poise and grace you can and will make your way to the top.
The inaugural three-night Mind Power Executive Leadership Development Safari for Women takes place from 22 – 25 July 2014 at the Thornybush Main Lodge.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.